Russia House

editorial

2018-02-15

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2018-02-15
The Deep State Is Very Real
How the Deep State stopped better relations with Russia.

By Robert W. Merry
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2018-02-15
Dutch Official Admits Lying About Meeting With Putin: Is Fake News Used by Russia or About Russia? (excerpt)

By Glenn Greenwald
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2018-02-15
Russia's Clash With the West Is About Geography, Not Ideology
The Marshall Plan recognized the limits of U.S. power in Europe. To be successful, so must diplomacy with Moscow today.

BY BENN STEIL
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2018-02-13
Why Democrats Are Obsessed with Russia

By Ted Galen Carpenter
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2018-02-13
Democratic ties to Russia are ample, and often ethically dubious

BY SHARYL ATTKISSON
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2018-02-13
In the Russia probe, what if no one is guilty?

By F.H. Buckley
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2018-02-13
The FBI Was Desperate for Somebody to Spy On
The Steele dossier served up an improbable tale about Carter Page, but it would have to do.

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
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2018-02-12
Why the Directors of RussiaТs Intelligence Agencies Visited Washington (Op-ed)
Secret meetings between the U.S. and Russia are the best hope for restoring relations
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2018-02-12
Is the Steele Dossier Full of СRussian DirtТ Ц or British?

By JAMES GEORGE JATRAS
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Russia House

2018-02-13

The FBI Was Desperate for Somebody to Spy On
The Steele dossier served up an improbable tale about Carter Page, but it would have to do.

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.

Now we have it ostensibly from then-FBI Director James Comey as well as former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe that there might have been no surveillance of Carter Page without the Steele dossier. If so, that's probably because the dossier provided the one thing the FBI lacked and was unlikely to find (because it didn't exist): a reason to believe Mr. Page was important.

In the dossier accumulated by former British spy Christopher Steele, Mr. Page is a player. He meets secretly with Vladimir Putin's No. 1 capo, Igor Sechin. Dangled in front of him is a gobsmacking bribe-a brokerage fee on the forthcoming privatization of a 19.5% stake in the giant Russian state oil firm Rosneft. All he has to do is arrange the lifting of U.S. sanctions, as if this were in the power of the elfin Mr. Page to deliver.

The story is implausible. Mr. Page has denied it under oath. Nothing has emerged to suggest the FBI confirmed it. Only Luke Harding, a British journalist who has written a book alleging Trump -Russia collusion, finds it inherently self-crediting. Why? Because Mr. Steele's Russian "mole" apparently correctly anticipated the Rosneft deal that would finally be consummated in the closing hours of 2016. Even the Russian cabinet and Rosneft's own board, Mr. Harding wrote last week at Politico.com, "only discovered the deal on December 7, hours after Sechin had already recorded his TV meeting with Putin revealing it."

This nonsense actually points to why somebody might pluck out of the pending Rosneft deal and attach Mr. Page's name to it. The partial sale, aimed at reducing the Russian government's stake to 50% plus one share, had actually been conspicuously on the agenda for years. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree in 2014, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov started touting the expected proceeds in 2015, and Mr. Putin formally included them in the state budget in February 2016.

In other words, the deal was a topic of fervent press speculation for more than a year by the time Mr. Steele or his sources put it at the center of their story about Mr. Page.

That the FBI was buying is the puzzling part. One possibility is that the agency was under strong pressure from fellow Obama administration officials to surveil somebody, anybody associated with the Trump campaign. Recall that the effervescent Mr. Page, by this time, was already known to the FBI and U.S. intelligence for several years, after he'd fallen afoul of a goofy Russian spy recruitment attempt in 2013.

OK, the press obviously needs our help. Reporters, it's time to employ the kind of intelligent imagination that good novelists and historians bring to their work. The Trump-Russia story is not the layered drama of your dreams, but a black comedy. When the movie version is made, it won't be the 2006 version of "Casino Royale." It will be the 1967 version.

First, the run-up to the Nunes memo reminds us that claims about protecting government secrets are often cover for bureaucratic privilege and avoiding accountability. Hillary Clinton was wrong to ignore information-security rules imposed on lesser government-unemployed mortals, but the value of government secrets is grossly exaggerated.

Former Clinton pollster Mark Penn, in a piece in the Hill newspaper last week, properly mocked the mainstream press, usually so eager to traffic in leaked government secrets, for suddenly developing a fondness for prior restraint in the case of Mr. Nunes's duly vetted memo.

Also in need of mocking is the media's self-fulfilling overreliance on the trope of the "dueling partisan narratives." Listen closely to what responsible partisans on either side say and it isn't nearly as over-the-top as the press generalizations about what they say (Republicans declare war on the FBI!).

Alas, the easiest column to write is the one that treats the most hyperbolic, unnuanced claims by one side or the other (or Mr. Trump ) as representative for the purpose of knocking them down. Such columns, we hasten to add, are as much products of creative desperation as they are of partisan water-carrying. And they only spawn more of the same. Peter Thiel last week wisely suggested that pundits should try focusing on the "steel man" rather than the straw man versions of their opponent's arguments.

The most important takeaway from the Nunes memo is this: Worries about "sources and methods" (often exaggerated) should not be a deterrent to clearing the air when something as important as the up-and-upness of a U.S. presidential election is in question.

Whatever his complaints, Mr. Trump managed to win. Hillary Clinton is the one publicly contending that improper FBI actions cost her the election. Her friend Lanny Davis has published a plausible book on the subject. Mrs. Clinton and her fellow Democrats should be insisting most loudly on a comprehensive and unflinching examination of the FBI's role in the 2016 race.

"Wall Street Journal"